Are the poor bearing a disproportionate amount of the responsibility for green living?

It seems to me that the wealthiest 10% of the population are doing about 90% of the polluting. They drive yachts, they fly private jets (and more commercial flying than middle class and poor), they have more cars (manufacturing pollution), they drive more miles (more pollution), they tend to have nonproductive/luxury type professions (movies, television, or executive positions), and they tend to have much larger houses (5,000, 6,000, 15,000 square feet), etc. The list goes on and on.

The carbon footprints of the wealthiest 10% of the population are HUGE, yet there is NO pressure from the left to tax them more for their polluting behaviors. There is NO pressure from the left for them to simply STOP polluting as much. There is NO call for movie stars, for example, to live in smaller homes and give up their jets. Why not?
shortstop — that doesn’t make sense. Rich people use fireplaces more than poor people, and they use them for pleasure (sometimes with multiple fireplaces in one home). Rich people do buy more cars, which is WORSE, because the pollution caused in the manufacturing of a new car is FAR worse than the pollution created in keeping a 5 or 10 year old car on the road for another couple of years. People who drive new cars every year are BIGGER polluters, not smaller.
Mike – sure, I can see the math numbers. However, before anyone has the gall to tell me I have to spend 00 on a new furnace, I want the multi-millionaire to live in a 1500 square foot house. See what I mean? I may have a furnace from 1985, but I heat under 1500 square feet. Some guy with a 2007 high-tech furnace heating a 10,000 square foot house is FAR WORSE THAN ME!
Fluvial — I don’t think the movie stars are responsible for most pollution. I think that a movie star, however, is responsible for WAY MORE than me, you, and anyone else who is of middle or lower class. Therefore, before someone tells me I have to put on a new roof, re-insulate the place, and spend 00 on a new furnace, I want THEM to not live so extravagantly.
Fluvial — yes, I understand that ExxonMobil had the biggest profits in history. One thing is for sure, though, is that ExxonMobil performs a necessary service. Without ExxonMobil, our cars won’t run. Being a movie star, or Al Gore, is a luxury.

Plus, I’m just talking about bearing disproportionate burden. If I earn a modest income, drive a modest car, and live in a modest house, why should I have to revamp my HVAC system before Al Gore, or Cheryl Crow? Why should I ever get rid of my SUV before John Travolta gets rid of his 5 airplanes parked in his front yard?
Belladonna — the line is simply drawn at — "how dare John Travolta tell me to stop driving an SUV when he has 5 planes in his yard?" That’s my point, in a nutshell.

14 thoughts on “Are the poor bearing a disproportionate amount of the responsibility for green living?”

  1. Its quite simple, even more so than you. The wealthiest 10% eemploy the other working 90 percent of us. Or at least those of us who work. Not only that but they already pay the bulk of all taxes paid in the US. If you want to bite the hand that feeds you, fine go ahead, but leave the rest of us out of your ridiculous ideals.

  2. Evidence from all around the world leads me and a growing number of economists and sociologists to answer simply "Yes"…

    The ‘how’ is in great part answered by the social structures we have set up – mainly around the access to land and other ‘gifts of Nature’.

    The Commons have increasingly been privatized away from the collectible tax base since about 1850 AD but esp the last fourty years, which converts community taxes into corporate share-holder income. Nasty.

    But there is change in the wind.

    Alana Harzog (USA) Frank DeJong (Canada) Peter Barnes, and Oz’s own Bryan Kavanagh are some of the many players in the global movement to re-structure economics using a ‘resource rental’ system and rebuilding the sector of our economies – The Commons.

    There are an increasing number of programs that make retro-fitting/green building for the poor communities of the world.

    The permaculture (non-govt) international aid movement is one of the world leaders in this area.

    The Oz’s ATA & our own Ripple Effect (Rotary International connected) are very active….

  3. There is something you all seem to be forgetting …

    … the rich are also usually the first people to adopt new technologies to save energy. How many row houses have solar panels? How many wood frame houses have been replaced with stronger yet greener building methods after every hurricane or tornado?

    By being purchasing leaders wealthy people provide the first markets for technology when volume is low and price is high, as production increases prices come down and are more available to broader market.

    There are a lot of stupid, rich celebrities to be sure, but that doesn’t mean that all rich people are stupid. The smart ones incorporate sustainable development into their lifestyle.

  4. While I agree that many wealthy people do produce more than their fair share of carbon, you have failed to realize a few things…

    Real damage comes from numbers, there simply aren’t enough yacht driving, private jet setting, millionaires in the world to even remotely compare to the millions of people with outdated furnaces and inefficient appliances

    what you (and everyone concerned about global warming) need to be thinking, isn’t about what amount of carbon is produced by millionaires but about what things you can personally do help with the cause……. and branch out from there

    maybe one day (soon) there will be laws that target individuals that produce more than their fair share of pollutions and i highly encourage everyone to write their congressmen but dont loose sight of the big picture and where your place is and what you can do.

  5. While the wealthiest 10% may have more access to flying, boating, driving, and basic polluting more than the other 90%, they aren’t really polluting that much more. The unfortunate truth is that there are so many cars and so many people using plastic, using electricity, wasting resources and the majority is really the majority. Sure, one rich person riding around in her yacht and flying in the private jet is going to have a much larger carbon footprint than someone who doesn’t have the money for a car and rides bikes/walks/uses public transit, but they aren’t really the "majority" of the problem. Everybody needs to make changes and people that are able to afford all of those luxuries are feeling pressure to not live so excessively and you see some that actually aren’t living the wild, good-times-polluting lifestyles they could be.

    I agree that further pressure could be applied to try to convince people, especially those that are definitely wealthy enough to change if they wanted, to make changes. I think, though, that US fuel taxes should be increased drastically to reduce driving and that would definitely affect lower classes more than those that could still afford to buy as much as they wanted. It’d be an unfortunate result, but it would hopefully still promote change and potentially change with the automakers to more efficient cars as in Europe where prices are far steeper than in the states.

    I don’t think anyone should be singled out, per se, to make changes. I think we all need to do what we can and instead of focusing on what so-and-so is doing, all focus on what we are doing and how we live.

  6. The earnings gap is a massive issue. Globally if you live in the overdeveloped Western world then your lifestyle seems decadent when compared to others. How do we draw a line? OK assuming that there is some magic criteria how do we ‘tax’/’penalize’ these wealthy ‘polluters?’

    The first counter argument would be that they are the ones that keep the economy healthy, that they provide all the jobs, that they will leave the country if they are overtaxed.

    In the UK there are dozens of recessive taxes, where the poor in society proportionately pay a far higher price. We live in an age of technology, we have satellite tracking, smart cards, mobile phone payment systems etc. We could implement a ‘quota’ system for miles, cars, fuel, flying, electronic goods etc. For those who wish to use more then they pay at a premium rate.

    Or we could invest in green technologies, environmentally friendly house design, solar heating and other products. Drive prices down. Green living is actually the cheapest method of living. It is unlikely that we will stop paying footballers, film stars and celebrities such obscene salaries to close the earnings gap. So for the wealthy, lets make luxury items really luxury including hypothecated taxes.

  7. Oh dear. If you think movie stars are responsible for the bulk of pollution in the U.S., OR if you think that movie stars account for more than 1% of wealth in the U.S., you are truly naive. Read Forbes magazine some day and get a clue.

    Here’s a question you *should* know the answer to: what company made the biggest profit in the history of the WORLD last year? I’ll be nice and give you multiple choice. Was it a:
    a) Movie production company?
    b) Computer and electronics industry?
    c) Multi-national petroleum fuels conglomerate?
    d) Military contracting company?

    Now, before I tell you the answer, I would remind you that Hollywood stars are paid by someone. Hence, they are never the richest or most powerful. Their paychecks come from the CEO’s and stockholders of those companies. And I’ll give you a clue: a) is the wrongest answer. Hollywood is not even close to being the richest industry in America.

    Now the answer… C! Exxon made the largest profit in the history of the world last year. Find out who’s at the top of that company, and start asking them your questions about fairness and justice.

    D is a close second. War is big business, and business is good. Hollywood stars…Ha. Grow up. Start reading the Wall Street Journal instead of People Magazine.

  8. More money=more land=more carbon offsets

    Your thinking is way off on this one. Most people who can afford to heat their homes will go for a clean burning natural gas, or will install a new electric central heat/ac unit every couple of years. Meanwhile the poor will often be using wood burning fire places or old inefficient appliances to heat/cool their homes, refrigerate their foods, and wash their dishes. Many poor people cannot afford new cars or get their old cars up to inspection standards leading to a larger "carbon foot-print".

    The carbon foot-print idea is the brain child of those opposed to capitalism and free-market economies. I wouldn’t buy into it just yet. I would rather see the private sector step up and take this one. The government has proved themselves incapable of handling anything other than putting itself in debt.

  9. This blame game is not taking us anywhere. I believe the science and technology of the 21st century is mature enough to find solutions to extra greenhouse gases if only enough resources could be devoted to the problem instead of passing blame. Nature has a way of fixing carbon dioxide by the process known as photosynthesis. I am passing this challenge on to our scientists: develop structures similar to photosynthesis and we shall no longer need to worry about who produces how much of what.

  10. That is why all of this nonsense is nothing more than a scam. This idea of a carbon footprint is silly. People buy the something because of they pollute. You young people don’t realize that they did the same exact thing in the 70s with the global cooling. That is why I am outraged about this.

  11. I’m glad somebody actually wrote what I’ve been thinking. You hear all the famous singers and movie stars going on and on about being "green", and we all know darn well what lavish homes and toys they have that use lots and lots of energy. And that goes for Al Gore himself too. I read where he has a huge inground pool that’s heated at all times, as well as numerous lights along his driveway that stay lit all the time. I would stop short of MAKING them do away with their lifestyles. That’s going too far. We ARE suppose to be a free country. I just find it a little hard to take them seriously when they’re talking about the environment and how they want to do their part.

  12. Don’t the poor bear all of our fallacies. Fear from Terrorist, Oh, please… price gouging fuel….insurance corruptions…conservation….corporate cr@p marketing for sh*t we don’t need, oh,,, the list is endless

  13. something i wread and then something i wrote here recently got me thinking along a similar, if not parallel line to your question. i’m glad you asked it, because the difference between the richest and poorest is a big part of the reason WHY there is so much abuse of the earth.

    why do the rich (i refer to corporations more than individuals) abuse the land and leave the poor to ‘pick up the pieces’? because they can.

    there are efforts to undo some of the damage done to habitats of the poorest of our brothers and sisters. (please see 1st link below for an example) it does seem that a disproportionably large share of the responsibiltiy to be green falls upon them, due in part to their sheer numbers and in part to the environments they’re forced to live in. that inequality’s not fair.

    the philosophy of permaculture seeks to rectify this by recommending fair shares and a more sustainable earth, with no waste. (please see 2nd link below)

    the reason under our present system that no one pressures the rich to change, is because the rich basically ‘own’ the system, through influence and favors. there is no impetus for change because change would impact the standard of living they hold so dear.

    eventually, we can hope the live earth concerts effect enough change from the higher-ups, or a dennis kucinich (please see 3rd link) wins the US presidency, but the 10% you speak of likely have enough clout to stifle that as well. so the best efforts are done on smaller levels by you and me, making changes as we’re able, possibly by using smart design and permaculture systems to effect changes that will allow others to see and learn how they too can ‘make a difference’. perhaps then, the ‘pressure’ on john travolta will mount!

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